Since a lone gunman committed the worst mass murder in American history at a gay nightclub in Orlando in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, June 12, the entire nation has been mourning in shock. This in itself is somewhat shocking to many LGBTQIA people and their families. For once, they are not regarded as “other” people, but as American sons, daughters, friends, lovers, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The picture that has emerged in the past few days of the Pulse nightclub is of a place where gay people, friends and family could come together in a safe place and have a great time.
When news of the massacre first broke, straight spouses on our online discussion boards and in private conversations expressed concern that there might be a straight spouse of one of the victims who was just getting the news that their husband or wife was socializing at a gay club, and might therefore be gay or lesbian. Or perhaps there was a straight ex-spouse somewhere who had moved on, and the attack brought back all kinds of feelings of grief, pain, anger. We reached out, and we continue to reach out to any current or former straight spouse of an LGBTQ person who needs support.
There is speculation that the gunman was himself gay. We have no way of knowing if he was a gay man full of self-loathing, or a terrorist intent on targeting LBGTQIA people for other reasons. We recognize the irony that his widow or former wife may at some point be interested in the resources that the Straight Spouse Network has to offer.
We also know that there is a terrible violation of personal safety for LGBTQ people and their families and friends which cannot be undone.
What has come out among straight spouses over the past few days is a deep sense of shock and anger, and also an uncomfortable recognition of how vulnerable we are. We have always been vulnerable to homophobia, whether it is mean jokes, bullying of our children, closeted spouses gaslighting us from a state of permanent denial, or well-meaning friends and family telling us that it can’t POSSIBLY be true. But now, personal safety is front and center for many of us. Some of us are parents of LGBTQ children; some of us are still married to our LGBTQ spouses; some of us share child custody with our exes and their current partners or LGBTQ spouses.
The gunman was known to be scoping out the Pulse club, and the Disney Springs Resort. Patrons of the club also say that he had a profile on gay dating apps, such as Jack’d and Grinder. This brings up a very frightening concern – when you connect with someone on a dating app who appears to have been part of your local social scene, you expect to proceed with caution. But you seldom expect that they are using the app to track you and possibly target you for murder.
He wanted to kill gay people, lesbian people, bisexual people, trans people, queer people, intersex people, asexual people.
And you know what? He’s not alone in that! LGBTQ people know this all too well. So do their parents. So do their children. So do their current and former straight spouses.
In the days since the attack, some of the straight spouses in our various groups have expressed deep anger, and a resurgence of fears and feelings they thought were resolved. Parents of LGBTQ adult children have been racked with grief at the thought that their son or daughter could be next. Some have even relived the trauma of being the parent of a child who was bullied, attacked, beaten – for no reason other than that they were openly LGBTQ, or that they were perceived to be as a result of having a parent who is not heterosexual.
Others have wondered if the next time a happy, safe place for LGBTQ people is decimated by a gunman or a bomb, they will need to be the support for their children who have lost a parent, their family and extended family who have lost a loved one. Even if there is a bitter and angry relationship after divorce, no one wishes this fate on anyone. And certainly, no one wants their children and loved ones to grieve a death that has come as a result of sheer terrorism against LGBTQ people.
49 people are dead, 53 are wounded and some of those are still fighting for their lives. It will be a long road to recovery. All because someone hated gay people enough to kill them for being gay.
Let’s start being honest about the tremendous depth of the homophobic hatred that has existed for a very long time, and is widespread enough to include family members and former spouses. Let’s wake up and not only worry about the next shooting – as a society, let’s say no to the next person who wants to bash a few queers in the wee hours on New York City’s Christopher Street. Let’s say no to the next person who wants to beat a transgender person. Let’s say no to the next person who thinks that raping a lesbian will teach her a lesson. Let’s say no to the people in our midst who want to fix gay men in the name of God by having them marry heterosexual women. Let’s say no to the family member who can’t stop joking about straight spouses, our children, our ex spouses, our friends.
Sure other people are beaten, raped, made fun of, bullied, murdered. But LGBTQ people, their children, and their families endure this constant threat for one reason only. That reason is that someone whose heart is filled with hate and lust for power has decided to kill them just because of who they are and who they love.
Whether we like it or not, straight spouses ARE a part of the rainbow family. Perhaps more people now fully understand that family is more than what they thought it was. The dead and injured from the Pulse nightclub were someone’s child, someone’s mother, someone’s spouse, someone’s favorite cousin or aunt or uncle, someone’s best friend. For so many people in so many places, they are FAMILY. Not a threat to the American way of life. Not a force that will destroy traditional marriage. Just FAMILY. Friends. Lovers. People.
Everything DOESN’T happen for a reason. Hatred has no reason. It is just evil.
All we can do as we rise from the devastation of this profound epidemic of hatred is show our love for each other in action.